Gov. Murphy Fills Sails of Fishermen’s Energy Wind Farm

Feb 28, 2018

A new governor with a commitment to renewable energy is good for the proponents of off-shore wind energy, but has Gov. Phil Murphy’s tenure come too late for Fishermen’s Energy, which has all the permits to install six Siemens 4-megawatt turbines at a site 4.5 kilometers off the Atlantic City coastline?

Fishermen’s Energy, a consortium of commercial and recreational fishermen, has been trying since 2005 to build a demonstration project of five wind turbines off Atlantic City. Over the years, it has jumped through all the federal and state regulation hoops and received all their permits. However, it became embroiled in a dispute with the N.J. Board of Public Utilities over whether the project was eligible to secure a “power offtake agreement” that would set up a system of Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates that could be sold to power companies to offset their carbon footprint, much as solar power SRECs do today.

The BPU denied the consortium’s OREC application twice. Although the Legislature got involved and passed two bills in 2016 that would have sidestepped the BPU’s negative stance, then-Gov. Chris Christie pocket-vetoed them.

Since then, Fishermen’s Energy’s hopes have been left hanging in the wind, but the project is still alive, according to Barnegat Mayor Kirk Larson, whose Viking Village Seafood company invested in Fishermen’s Energy along with partners Atlantic Cape Fisheries, Cold Spring Fish and Supply Co. out of Cape May, Dock Street Seafood out of Wildwood and Eastern Shore Seafood out of Mappsville, Va.

Larson directed all future calls about Fishermen’s to the company spokesman and COO Paul Gallagher.

On Tuesday, Gallagher said Murphy’s proposals mean things are looking up for Fishermen’s.

Because of the BPU’s reluctance to grant the power offtake agreement by the end of 2017, Fishermen’s lost the second round of funding from a $45 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. Gallagher said it was unlikely the company will be able to secure additional grant money, “but there is new interest in investing in New Jersey, given the commitment of Gov. Murphy to finally developing this industry.”

Christie was also held accountable by environmental groups for not creating an Offshore Renewable Energy Credit system as required by the state’s Offshore Wind Economic Development Act.

“We are back to looking to market the offtake through the OREC mechanism provided by statute, a statute we believe will now be fully implemented,” added Gallagher.

In his statement on clean energy posted on the governor’s webpage, Murphy says he recognizes climate change and the threat it poses to the state, but it is also an opportunity to build a clean-energy economy with good-paying green jobs. His policy’s statement begins “Governor Murphy will seize this opportunity by restoring New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and (by) putting New Jersey on a road to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. He will accelerate the development of renewable energy sources by promoting solar energy and jumpstarting our offshore wind industry, where New Jersey should be a national leader given its location. In addition, he will ensure that our environmental efforts are appropriately focused on low-income communities who are disproportionately impacted by pollution, and protect the quality of our air and water supply.”

His plan would include a target of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

Soon after taking office, Murphy signed an executive order restoring the state to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state effort to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade program. However, reinstating membership in the RGGI requires approval from the current member states. The program funds carbon-reducing programs with revenue generated by auctioning off carbon “allowances” to power companies. Murphy said Christie’s decision to withdraw from RGGI cost New Jersey nearly $300 million.

Monday, Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiodaliso said the BPU was “happy to be part of the process of rejoining RGGI and ensuring cleaner air in New Jersey and throughout the region.”

Fishermen’s Energy has received all necessary permits to finalize the construction planning, fabrication and deployment of the wind farm, and Fishermen’s claims there is no other project in America more prepared to put steel in the water.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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